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Bibliographic information

Language: Welsh

Covers years:

  • 682–1198 [Cotton Cleopatra B. v]
  • 682–1461 [NLW 7006D]


Brenhinedd y Saesson

The most distinctive of the three surviving versions of the closely-related group of chronicles generally known as Brut y Tywysogion, it is the only one of the three known under a different name, given in its earliest manuscripts. The earliest manuscript of the chronicle is incomplete and finishes in 1198. Up to this point it is ultimately dependent on the same material as both other versions of the Brut (Peniarth MS 20 version and Llyfr Coch Hergest version), but this is combined with material from English sources relating to events in England, fullest down to the eleventh century. These sources included the Annals of Winchester, William of Malmesbury's Gesta Regum Anglorum and material drawn ultimately from Henry of Huntingdon's Historia Anglorum, as well as Marcher annals now surviving in the Breviate of Domesday manuscript, London, National Archives, MS E. 164/1, which also contains the 'Breviate Chronicle (B-text of Annales Cambriae)'.. Brenhinedd y Saesson represents a unique combination of Welsh and English history, although one which is consistent in its approach for only part of the text, up to the eleventh century. Its main source is the Latin chronicle from which both other versions of Brut y Tywysogion were also ultimately derived, but as well as summarising and abridging that work and adding material relating to English kings, the author also gave the work greater historiographical consistency, particularly in its earliest portion. It is more explicitly linked with Geoffrey of Monmouth’s History of the Kings of Britain (De gestis Britonum), the work which precedes it in both of Brenhinedd y Saesson’s earliest manuscripts, in a distinctive Welsh translation entitled Ystoriaeu Brenhinedd Ynys Brydeyn.

The earliest manuscript, London, British Library, Cotton Cleopatra B. v, part 1, was written by the same scribe who wrote the continuation of Brut y Tywysogion in Peniarth 20, and can therefore be dated to the period around 1330. It is extremely likely to be from north-east Wales and may also be from Valle Crucis Abbey. This text of the chronicle ends in 1198. The second significant manuscript is Aberystwyth, NLW 7006D, or Llyfr Du Basing. Completed soon after 1461, it is in the hand of Gutun Owain and another, probably older scribe. Its relationship to Cotton Cleopatra B. v and Peniarth MS 20 suggests that it may also be a Valle Crucis product, but its earliest connection is with the Cistercian abbey of Basingwerk. Gutun Owain had close connections with both monasteries. This version of the chronicle is dependent on Cotton Cleopatra to 1198, but thereafter it is a combination of the Peniarth MS 20 and Llyfr Coch Hergest versions to 1282. It then uses the continuation of Peniarth 20 to 1332, and there is a further short continuation to 1461, probably of Gutun Owain’s own devising. Thomas Jones’ edition of the chronicle uses Cotton Cleopatra B. v to 1198, with variants from NLW 7006D, and subsequently the latter to 1461.

Nia Wyn Jones

Editions & Translation

  • Brenhinedd y Saesson, or, the Kings of the Saxons: BM Cotton MS. Cleopatra B v and the Black Book of Basingwerk, NLW MS. 7006, ed. and trans. by Thomas Jones, History and Law Series, 25 (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1971).
  • Brenhinoedd y Saeson, 'The Kings of the English', A.D. 682–954: Texts P, R, S in Parallel, ed. by D. N. Dumville, Basic Texts for Medieval British History, 1 (Aberdeen: Department of History, University of Aberdeen, 2005).

Secondary Scholarship

Secondary Scholarship - Specific to this version

  • J. J. Parry, Brut y Brenhinedd: Cotton Cleopatra Version (Cambridge, MA, 1937)
  • B. F. Roberts, 'Ystoriaeu Brenhinedd Ynys Brydeyn: a Fourteenth-Century Welsh Brut', in Narrative in Celtic Tradition: Essays in Honor of Edgar M. Slotkin,ed. by Joseph F. Eska, CSANA Yearbook, 8–9 (Hamilton, NY: Colgate University Press, 2011), pp. 215–27.
  • J. Beverley Smith, ‘Historical Writing in Medieval Wales: the Composition of Brenhinedd y Saesson’, Studia Celtica, 42 (2008), 55–86.

Secondary Scholarship - Brut y Tywysogion more generally

  • Nia Wyn Jones, ‘Brut y Tywysogion: The History of the Princes and Twelfth-Century Cambro-Latin Historical Writing’, Haskins Society Journal 26 (2014, forthcoming)
  • J. E. Lloyd, ‘The Welsh Chronicles’, Proceedings of the British Academy,14 (1928), 369–91.
  • J. Beverley Smith, 'Castell Gwyddgrug', Bulletin of the Board of Celtic Studies, 26 (1976), 74–77.
  • J. Beverley Smith, ‘Historical Writing in Medieval Wales: The Composition of Brenhinedd y Saesson’, Studia Celtica,42 (2008), 55–86.
  • David Stephenson, 'The Chronicler of Cwm-hir abbey, 1257–63: The Construction of a Welsh Chronicle', in Wales and the Welsh in the Middle Ages, ed. by R. A. Griffiths and P. R. Schofield (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2011), pp. 29–45.
  • David Stephenson, ‘Entries Relating to Arwystli and Powys in the Welsh Chronicles, 1128–32’, Montgomeryshire Collections, 99 (2011), 45–51.
  • David Stephenson, 'The "Resurgence" of Powys in the Late Eleventh and Early Twelfth Centuries', Anglo-Norman Studies, 30 (2007), 182–95.
  • David Stephenson, 'Welsh Chronicles' Accounts of the Mid-Twelfth Century', Cambrian Medieval Celtic Studies, 56 (2008), 45–57.

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